A Difficult Break Up

This week’s game is going to be a tough one to watch.

 

It shouldn’t be.

 

Friday night we will see a clash between two of the hottest sides in the competition at the best sporting stadium in the country.

Emerging form the home change rooms through the heat haze of flame throwers, and to the soundtrack of the raucous cheers of their faithful, will be a side who has been the common denominator in several of the best games of the 2016 season so far. Under their new coach they are playing a style of football that has made the game beautiful again. They run hard and attack each game with vigour and intent, even when things aren’t flowing their way. They possess a raft of players that are genuinely exciting to watch, and when they get their game going and connect by foot and hand it’s almost as if the ball drifts from defence to attack, like a melodic note across a page of music.

Decanting from the opposition change rooms will be a side who have also impressed so far in 2016. One of the most successful sides of the modern era, due to some astute work at the trade and draft tables they are again on rise. Not dissimilar to the home side, they originate from a city where its psyche is connected to their fortunes. In recent times they have also become a vehicle for the escapism of a populace struggling to deal with the decline of the motor industry and the prevailing uncertainty. This season they have fulfilled both of these duties well, destroying the reigning triple premier in Round 1 and only dropping one game to date against the rising orange tide from Sydney’s western suburbs.

What a contest it will be.

There’s just one problem.

‘He’ will be there.

No doubt winning plenty of contested ball, bursting from the centre, and kicking goals from 50 out on the run. All things I have witnessed week in, week out for the last eight years, to my great delight. That’s the type of player he is. He revels in the contest, particularly when the stakes are high. Friday night will be no different.

 

Except it will be.

 

This time he won’t be emerging from the home change rooms amongst the heat haze.

The hoops he wears will be a different colour, his work in the contest and the goals he kicks won’t be for our benefit.

I was at his first game back in 2008. I remember clearly sitting behind the goals watching him warm up before the game against Essendon at Etihad, telling my wife his back story. A kid with immense talent, the club had permitted him to stay in his home town in country Victoria in his first year so he could complete his last year of schooling. He was all arms and legs, and looked like he’d snap in half the first time he entered the fray.

But as he slotted his first goal I knew I had witnessed the humble beginnings of greatness.

The final days of Neil Craig’s reign in 2010-11 were dark times. The long trek from the Adelaide Hills down and across town to the decaying Football Park had me regularly questioning my commitment to the cause as we were beaten time and time again, often by plenty. He was one of the few that kept me sane as I sat out in the wet and the cold, a youngster on the rise providing moments to warm the heart even when the scoreboard held no joy.

In 2012 it seemed that the dawn was finally upon us. As we finally marched towards our destiny under a new coach he was one of the chief instigators, providing spark when whenever we desperately including in that fateful preliminary final.

Alas, it was a false dawn and with scandal and penalties the dark times returned. 2013 and 2014 consigned to the scrap heap and two more years clinging to the small joys that he provided.

Then came change and upheaval. A past player returned to lead us from the mire, a coach and CEO departed.

It was about then that the speculation began in earnest. The state of constant change and mediocrity was not acceptable. The pull of family was too great. He was going home. It couldn’t be true though. There was no one more committed to the cause, to the club.

The start to 2015 was good. His start to 2015 was better. New coach and administration seemed strong, focused, and in control. Their form was improving. The speculation still came, the rumours flowed. But were on the right path again. He can’t go now.

 

He won’t go.

 

Then unspeakable tragedy.

 

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. It’s just a game. Just footy. Where we go to escape from this sort of thing, not be confronted by it.

On the other side of it all, there he was, with his team mates, making it about football again. Displaying courage, giving us hope, and earning our admiration.

Then 2015 was done, and he left, taking the gold jacket with him as he departed.

In the end the pull of family and home was too great. I respect that. I understand it. He went the right way about it and we did as well as could be expected out of the trade.

It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with though. This Friday night will be the first time I’ve watched a game involving Geelong all year. Deliberately. I just haven’t been able to do it. Stupid really, it’s just a game, and I don’t know him from a bar of soap really.

Thankfully season 2016 so far has seen players still in the tri colours do well and help me and my fellow supporters move on. They have continued their rise in his absence, and may well consign him to a distant memory with their achievements yet.

But for now I’m certain I will feel a few pangs on Friday night.

What was, and what could have been. I’m sure it will be the same for many of my fellow fans – and if they deny it, they’re kidding themselves.

About Ben Footner

I'm tragic Crows fan, avid lawn bowler, public librarian and father of 2 little kiddies. Sometimes I also find time amongst all that to squeeze out the occasional article for the Almanac.

Comments

  1. Ben – that’s exactly what Gary Ablett’s departure from Geelong did. But then we won a flag. Now he’s just a Sun’s player.

  2. jan courtin says

    And ditto Lance Franklin. Didn’t stop Hawthorn. He’s just a Swans’ player – BUT, it’s Buddy!

    Understand your sentiments. In some ways it’s worse when the player has no say in the matter; for example, when Adam Schneider, a Swans’ favourite, was sent packing, and now, watching Mummy play for the opposition.

    I try not to face the reality of footy these days – a massive corporate concern and all that that entails – and try to remember the good old days when loyalty meant something. A losing battle I’m afraid.

  3. Dave Brown says

    Good stuff, Ben. I share your perspective for the most part. It’s very hard to watch Geelong play, particularly when he is playing so well. Crows should definitely give Milera a run this week, maybe even Gore. We’ve got something good to move onto no matter the loss.

  4. Citrus Bob says

    Great reading Ben and with a little tear in my eye.
    Like watching a child grow up and then moving away for good.
    We move on but then there are some players and the OTHERS. 29 is the only other player who could be compared to 32 come 35. I am talking top echelon players not the one’s most loved like Schneider et al.
    Will the Crows boo him on Friday? They will but not like they booed Tippet or the Hawks booed Buddy.
    32/35 gave everything to the Crows and left nothing undone.
    Citrus.

  5. Ben Footner says

    Thanks Dave. I think while we lost Dangerfield’s top end talent, overall the combined talent on our list is much better as a result. It’s often said that it’s the players from 12 – 22 on the list that make a good side into a premiership contender, and I think Adelaide’s depth now is fantastic.

    Thanks for comment too Bob. Knowing your connection it means a lot. I have no doubt he gave us his all in the time he was here. I will probably throw a few boos in his direction Friday night, but more for the theatre of it rather than with any sort of malice. Haha.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Ben I basically echo every word except I have still been able to appreciate his wizardry for the cats
    ( citrus unfortunately some crows supporters unbelievably will be just as hostile to Paddy as they were to
    bloody,Tippett) I thought before hand if the great 1 stayed we were entering the premiership window leave and we would struggle to make the 8 I am convinced of that now

  7. Great read Ben. It’ll be compelling. I’m pretty comfortable with Paddy. Didn’t Fudd come home in identical circumstances and win us two flags?

    Should be a belter.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I saw his first game in new colours. Same great player, different jumper, giving 125% from the first bounce.

    Can’t begrudge him a thing.

    You can add M Robran, T Bond (and others) to the Crows premiership players that came home. As of course did the coach (briefly)

    Being grateful for what you had is my way of dealing with it.

    Thanks Ben.

  9. Ben Footner says

    We won’t struggle to make the 8 Mal, we’re a certainty to make it from here IMO, and I thought that since before the season began. One man does not maketh a team, and Adelaide has plenty of quality players still on their list. We could even still be a shot for top 4 at this point, particularly if we get over the Cats tomorrow night.

    If we win tomorrow night that will provide a nice little bit of closure I think Mickey & Mark!

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